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Hybrid education can offer plenty

BenefitsThe word "hybrid" is rapidly becoming part of the American vocabulary and is synonymous with a number of benefits, including lower transportation costs and incresed fuel efficiency. These benefits are accomplished by blending electric motors and gasoline engines to power an automobile. Hybrid education is also a blending process that combines classroom-based education with technologically distributed teaching methods. Just like the automotive application of the term, hybrid education can lower the costs and increase the efficiency of the educational programs we offer.

Using technology to distribute education includes a number of methods, such as CD-ROM, videotape, satellite and the Internet. These methods are collectively referred to as "distributed" or "distributive" methods. Regardless of the technology involved, the common denominator of distributed methods is that teaching and learning can occur without an instructor and student being together at the same time and place, which is what makes these methods so attractive to our administrators, educators and field providers.

Three factors are driving the growth of hybrid education: pressure to lower training costs; difficulty scheduling training, and growing availability of technology as a solution for delivering effective education.

The cost of conducting required and optional training in an organization is a significant part of any annual budget. Face-to-face education in a classroom or skills lab involves not only the cost of educator salaries, equipment and facilities, but also includes the salary expense of the students in attendance, as well as overtime costs paid to those employees who cover each student's duty shift while he is in the classroom.

Hybrid Education

Benefits

Hybrid education offers a solution to cost and scheduling problems. In short, the majority of those attending classes now have access to the Internet either at home or in the classroom, which allows it to capitalize on the benefits of Internet-based distributed learning.

Perhaps the strongest attraction to hybrid education for our pupils is that is caters to people who can benefit from an alternative delivery format because of the way their courses are structured, but who also need the face-to-face support offered traditionally. Education often involves learning with certain skills, which are best accomplished in a hands-on environment, but there is plenty of information regarding certain variables surrounding the use of skills that can be effectively taught in an online environment. In a hybrid course, seat time in the classroom is reduced and a variety of course activities like lectures, multimedia demonstrations, simulations, discussion groups, and testing and written assignments can all be accomplished with OLK12.

The online portion of a hybrid course is usually accomplished through a course and learning management system (C/LMS), such as OLK12 or Blackboard. These particular C/LMS's typically support hybrid courses offered from K-universities. OLK12 is unique in the fact that we provide the C/LMS and technical support services necessary for many institutions that have already decided on setting up an online learning program that can include hybrid courses.

The decision to offer a hybrid or blended class is often driven by the difficulties associated with getting people into the classroom. While a hybrid course may solve a scheduling problem, the technology involved can create new problems. Careful planning is necessary if a blended course is going to be successful. Research on barrier to introducing blended education programs provides insight into the challenges an organization can expect. 




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They include limitations of instructors, resistance to organizational change, feeling threatened by technology, access to worksite computers, and instructor time needed for online components of course development.

Since many of these problems are interconnected within an institution, it is essential to have the board of trustees as advocates of the hybrid education process.

When planning a blended course offering, the online component is unfamiliar to most instructors and will require more time and attention than the classroom component.  It may take six months or more to get the online component ready to go before the initial offering.  The ideal blended course effectively integrates the online and classroom portions to work in concert.  Work that is done in the online environment should be aligned with a classroom session and be seen by students as clearly integrated to achieving the learning objectives of the course.  Without this dynamic, students may see either the online or classroom portion of the course as a waste of time.

Hybrid education is an effective strategy for dealing with high training costs and scheduling constraints that affect many institutions.  Careful planning, assembly or appropriate technical resources and allowing instructors adequate time to prepare the online course content are basic requirements to ensure the hybrid course will be an effective education tool.  The support of the board of trustees in providing the time, training and resources instructors and students will need is a critical ingredient for success.  Instructors should learn how to use the online content - authoring software to expand their online component offerings beyond print-based materials.  Course and learning management systems should be used to deliver the online portions of the programs.